Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips and Elizabeth Breitweiser team up!
This particular one was released a few weeks ago. August 3rd to be exact, but that’s fine, some of you may not have heard of it. So, I felt like I should bring it up. If you have read, or heard about this one it’s probably because you are coming to it from previous series that Brubaker/Phillips have released before (The Fadeout, Criminal, Fatale, Incognito). While they are primarily known for noir they do explore darker supernatural themes, as a sort of subgenre to their stories. Certainly there is no lack of mystery in this new first issue, and I was surprised when I found it was primarily a supernatural comic.
This new release is a departure from their last series, The Fadeout, which was a heavy plot-driven murder mystery set in the golden era of Hollywood. This new story follows 28-yr old Dylan, a depressed suicidal college-student, and his slow slip into a life of murder. He does not fall into this life for reasons you may think; after a failed suicide attempt a demon visits him, prompting that since the demon saved Dylan's life, he now must kill those who deserve to die in exchange. Yeah. It’s heavy stuff.
The artwork that Phillips brings to Brubaker’s story is just as stark as the plot hook. It has the same style that should be expected from them; realism that borrows heavily from classic pulp vignettes. Kill or be Killed in overall appearance does follow more closely with Criminal’s style, than say that of The Fadeout or Fatale. But that is just comparing it to other existing works. This story has a more modern aesthetic to the characters, and is not set specifically in the noir embodiment of decades long gone. Breitweiser’s colors lend a huge hand in this, while not straying far from the cooler color palette that the past duo's comics are known for. However, it is much darker, making scenes with snow falling or shotgun blasts lighting up corridors, really stand out.
Basing this buy on their previous works, picking this up was a no-brainer. I don’t think they can disappoint, so long as the effort is put in. As they are both seasoned veterans of the industry it’s hard to believe that they could, or will, with this series.
My only hesitation going in, once the plot set-up was understood, was their departure from noir themes to vigilante-justice. I’m a bit tired of vigilantes. Perhaps it is caused by the slew of DC and Marvel movies, along with their constant revamping of the universes. We all get it, Wayne and Parker are righting the wrongs of the world because they had screwed up childhoods. Thanks. But, again, my fears were righted as Kill or be Killed took me down a path that even Dexter didn’t have: a literal demon.
And yes, maybe they will pull the twist some of you think is coming: is Dylan experiencing the demon as a sort of subconscious projection of an inner-battered self? Or maybe it’s just a really apparent metaphor, but within the story the demon is real? Speculation is futile, as this is issue #1 and Brubaker will fill in the gaps, I think, with near-perfection.
Long and short of it: if you haven’t picked it up, get to the store and try it. I cannot wait for issue #2, the series looks very promising.